Sunday, Mar. 3, 2024

Sapphire’s Polished Performance Puts Her On Top At Washington

McLain Ward calls on his Olympic Games gold-medal mount to help him win the President’s Cup.

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McLain Ward calls on his Olympic Games gold-medal mount to help him win the President’s Cup.

When McLain Ward gets his heart set on winning a grand prix, he can be pretty tough to beat—especially when he saddles up Sapphire.

So when Ward set his sights on the $100,000 President’s Cup CSI-W at the Washington International Horse Show, Oct. 21-26, he called on his partner from the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong to help him earn blue.

“I like to win every day but some days a little more than others,” said Ward, who topped the class in 2004 with Goldika 559. “What Sapphire’s done this year, well, she’s been spectacular, but I’ve had to pass up a lot of big grand prix classes in order to prepare for the Olympics. I decided to bring her here and to [the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament] because these were the two grand prix remaining in the season that really meant something to me that I really coveted. When you really want something you bring your biggest gun.”

Ward’s student, 21-year-old Angel Karolyi, finished second aboard Sun God, and Todd Minikus took third on Pavarotti.

Karolyi set the tone in the eight-horse jump-off with a conservative clear, but when other riders set out to best his time the rails started hitting the dirt. Only Ward, who came back seventh, could stay clear and a bit quicker.

Ward and Sapphire, owned by Ward and Bluechip Bloodstock, survived an awkward first jump-off fence when the quick-thinking mare started to turn just a bit earlier than his rider wanted. “I knew at that point she wasn’t going to have a fence down,” he said. “She’s such a careful horse, I just had to keep on kicking from there on in.

“We’ve been so blessed to have this horse in our lives, and she just keeps doing and doing and doing,” he continued. “There’s nothing I can do to thank her.”

But Ward, Brewster, N.Y., managed to find a way to reward Sapphire by giving her a well-deserved break after the Olympic Games. The 13-year-old chestnut didn’t jump a single fence after returning from Hong Kong in August
until warming up before Thursday’s grand prix qualifier.

Karolyi couldn’t have been happier to finish as runner-up to his mentor and earn  his best ribbon in a big class since he came to the United States from his native Venezuela a year ago. He took over the ride on Ron Krise’s veteran of the grand prix circuit over the summer.

“He’s like a teacher for me,” said Karolyi of the 13-year-old chestnut gelding. “Whenever I get nervous, he just says, ‘Hang on, I’ll take you along.’ He has a lot of experience, so he’s a good horse for me.”

While Ward couldn’t have been more pleased for his friend’s breakout performance, he couldn’t resist poking a little fun when Karolyi celebrated his clear round with a little extra exuberance, telling him, “Next time you go in the lead, act like you’ve been there before, my friend.”

Grand Times

When Archie Cox offered Leslie Steele the ride on her old partner Smitten for the fall season, she jumped on the
opportunity. That decision paid off in spades when the pair earned the regular conformation hunter and co-grand hunter titles at Washington for Stephanie Danhakl. Cox took reserve honors in the conformation division aboard Delanie Stone’s White Oak.

“The hardest and best thing about him is that he’s an overachiever,” said Steele. “If he were a person he’d be obsessive compulsive. He never wants to lose.”

Smitten got his start in the show ring with Steele before finding his way to Danhakl via Cox. The Holsteiner (by Cheenook) spent much of the year campaigning on the California circuit in the second year and conformation rings with Cox.

Though the 8-year-old gelding is a bit shy on experience, having skipped his pre-green year and taking it easy as a first year horse, he marched around the spooky ring at the Verizon Center like a seasoned pro. Steele credited Cox for doing much of the work.

“Archie put a lot of time and effort into training him and getting him to this point, and the owners just kept sending him to shows he needed,” said Steele, Calabasas, Calif. “Mr. Danhakl is such a wonderful client for Archie. It’s nice to be able to do a good job for someone like that.”

Scott Stewart also did a good job at Washington this year and proved yet again that he knows how to prepare for a competition. Stewart picked up his fourth leading hunter rider title after guiding Ovation to the second year green, green conformation and co-grand hunter championships. He also claimed blue in the $15,000 Washington International Horse Show Hunter Derby Classic and the first year green hunter championship aboard his World Time.

Washington Tidbits

•    Renaissance and David Wright rose to the occasion in the regular working hunter division, capturing the championship for South Point Farms. The bay Hanoverian won the handy class and the under saddle to take the tricolor. “He’s very simple,” said Wright. “We keep him fit enough to jump big jumps, and we don’t jump him very often.”

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•    Michael Morrissey’s decision to bring Scaraberas to Washington just for the $25,000 Puissance class paid off when he cleared the 7′ 1⁄2″ wall to take the blue. But Morrissey wasn’t satisfied with a big check. The game 21-year-old took a run at Anthony D’Ambrosio’s 1983 indoor puissance record of 7′ 7 1⁄2″, but horse and rider took a minor tumble after attempting the wall set at 7’8″.

•Todd Minikus’ third-placed ribbon in the $100,000 President’s Cup took a back seat to his biggest news of the week: becoming a father. Minikus and his wife, Amanda, celebrated the birth of their first child, a son, earlier in the week.

After Capital Challenge (Md.), where Stewart’s horses went well enough to boost him to the leading hunter rider title, he elected to send his mounts back home to River’s Edge Farm in New Jersey for a few weeks of rest. By opting out of the Pennsylvania National, Stewart faced plenty of backlash and speculation.

“Everyone thought I skipped Harrisburg because of the judging, but that wasn’t the case,” he said. “All three of those judges do a great job. We entered every [indoor] show, and after they went so well at Capital Challenge, we decided to go with the ponies and junior horses and let the other horses relax. The indoor season is too long to keep them going great. You can get some nice rounds but not [consistently] good rounds.”

Despite qualifying a long list of horses in the professional divisions for Washington, Stewart selected only a few to show in downtown D.C. “I decided just to bring horses I knew were going to be easy to get ready,” he said. “None of these horses longe or have to work a lot, so we don’t have to be up at all hours. It’s the perfect group for this kind of show.”

Stewart’s “less is more” strategy has kept Ovation at the top of his game, and he purchased the 8-year-old from owner Molly Ohrstrom a week prior to Washington. “Last year Ovation was good but not as relaxed at this show,” he said. “He’s really matured and become super easy to deal with.”

Stewart’s less-experienced mount, World Time, won the first championship of his career at Washington and surprised Stewart by topping the derby, an invitational class open only to champions. Stewart found the 6-year-old Oldenburg (Araconit—Politess-M) in Europe and campaigned him lightly this season.

Sealing The Deal

Heading into the final amateur-owner jumper class, Whitney Weeks knew she and Subliem had their work cut out for them. In order to secure the championship, the pair would have to be fifth or better, and the course laid out before them posed some tricky questions.

“[Subliem] is really difficult to turn left,” said Weeks. “I was pulling so hard on my left rein, and she just dove to the right, so we missed our [inside] turn.”

The tight left rollback almost ruined Weeks’ tricolor chances, but she made time by leaving out a stride in the last line and earned second place.

“She’s so small and handy,” said Weeks of Subliem after receiving her championship honors. “It makes jumping indoors that much easier.”

Weeks and Subliem have been together for three years, and she said that the mare has taught her more than any other horse she’s owned. “She’s a professional when it comes to this stuff,” Weeks added.

Weeks laughed when she recalled buying Subliem from the Netherlands.

“My old trainer, Kent Farrington, has a business partner who owned her. He’s obsessed with [Subliem]; she’s like his wife! It took us forever to convince him to let us bring her to the States.”

Weeks, a junior at Boston University (Mass.) studying English, said that although Subliem is great in the show ring, she’s not very huggable in her stall. “She’s actually mean in the barn. She runs her teeth up and down the bars and lunges when people get too close!” said Weeks with a laugh.

“But once she gets in the ring, she’s all business. She loves to show and definitely knows when it’s time to go,” Weeks noted.

Whitney wasn’t the only Weeks to earn top ribbons at Washington—her mother, Olivia Fry Weeks, battled for the WIHS adult amateur jumper title but fell just short, taking second to Kenzie Donovan.

Donovan and 15.1-hand Max were the fastest of seven jump-off contenders who went double clear on Wednesday night.

Although Donovan had competed in the hunters for many years as a junior, she didn’t start riding jumpers until she met trainers Cody and Emily Williams this year. “They’re big jumper people,” said Donovan, “So when I started riding with them I bought Max and went to the jumpers.”

“I never dreamed of even coming here my first year,” added Donovan after picking up her awards. “This is just amazing.”

Donovan purchased Max last winter from Olympic gold medalist Eric Lamaze of Canada. “He’s such a great little horse, and he’s taught me so much. He brought me a long way this year.”

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She said that after watching the WIHS children’s jumper championship earlier in the day she made plans to ride all of the inside turns if she qualified for the jump-off. “My plan was to just have a medium pace to jump 1 and then shave every turn as tightly as I could,” she said.

Donovan’s turns won her the class, and she was almost a full second faster than Olivia Weeks aboard Atman.
The 19-year-old is a sophomore at Georgetown University (D.C.) where she’s studying healthcare management and
policy at the nursing school. During the winter she commutes to Wellington, Fla., every other weekend where she meets up with her trainers.

“It’s hard sometimes,” she said of her traveling schedule. “It gets tough, but I love it, and as long as I can, I’ll keep doing it.”

Lavari Leads Again

Tracy Scheriff is another rider who surprised herself with a big win at Washington. After picking up the amateur-owner, 18-35, championship at the Pennsylvania National with Lavari, Scheriff said she had no expectations
of repeating her spectacular performance at Washington.

So when she and her long-time partner put in an even better performance to claim not only that title, but also the grand amateur-owner honors, she was ecstatic. “This is unreal,” said Scheriff. “I just can’t believe it.”

To top it off, Scheriff, 25, Ramsey, N.J., also picked up the leading amateur-owner rider title and took home the award for the best round in any amateur-owner over fences class. She trains with Havens Schatt.

Lavari and Scheriff have been together for three years, although the gelding took last year off when Scheriff broke her leg falling off a different horse. “I didn’t ride for almost a year and then got back on in August,” said Scheriff. “It took me a little while to get back into it, but he was very patient and put up with me.”

She said that even though Lavari can be opinionated in the barn, he’s easy to ride and always gives her 100 percent. “He’s always ready for you,” said Scheriff. “He knows his job and goes in ready to win.”


The Mohr Sisters Make The Most Of Washington

There was no hint of sibling rivalry between sisters Lindsey and Kristen Mohr at the Washington International Horse Show. And both riders were rewarded with blues after Lindsey captured the $10,000 WIHS Adult Amateur Hunter Championship on Lion King, and Kristen took top honors in the $10,000 WIHS Children’s Hunter Championship aboard Marvel. The sisters, who hail from Long Valley, N.J., train with Stacia Madden and Krista Freundlich of Beacon Hill Stables.

Lindsey earned the top score of 92 in the two-round championship, and the win wrapped up a stellar indoor season for “King” and Lindsey, who also won the $10,000 NAL Adult Amateur Hunter Classic at the Pennsylvania National.

“It’s so much fun to show here in Washington—King really likes this ring,” said Lindsey. “It’s especially great to show at night here because more people can come and watch.”

Her father was among the spectators who made a special trip to watch the evening’s competition. “My dad doesn’t get to watch me ride much,” she said. “He was here and at Harrisburg. I think he’s my lucky charm!”

Since finishing her junior career last year, Lindsey, 19, passed her two steady eddies, Marvel and King, on to her sister while she’s focused on rounding out her equestrian résumé. Lindsey has been riding for the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team at Centenary College (N.J.) where she majors in equine studies, and she’s bringing along her first young horse.

Kristen rides Marvel—a hand-me-down from her sister’s junior hunter days—in the children’s hunters and 3’6″ equitation. “He went so well here,” said Kristen, 11. “He’s just amazing. I came here not expecting anything; I just wanted to put down a good round.”

Marvel serves as Kristen’s first full-sized mount and her partner in her first trip to the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals at the Pennsylvania National this year, where she placed fourth in one of the schooling classes. Kristen also topped the Taylor Harris National Children’s Medal at Capital Challenge (Md.) aboard King.

Growing up riding together has proved mutually beneficial for the two sisters. Having helped her sister learn to ride has inspired Lindsey to set her sights on becoming a professional trainer. And the younger Mohr considers herself lucky to follow in her sister’s footsteps.

“She gives me my motivation to do it,” said Kristen. “I want to be like her. I try to listen to her, because the horses are hers. And a little pressure is a good thing!”

Mollie Bailey and Megan Martin

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